NSDP: Key to maritime human capital development
The Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) was established in 2008 as a strategic national policy initiative on human capital development for the maritime sector of the nations economy. The programme, which is under the management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), was borne out of the need to harness the country’s opportunity of being a coastal nation and its endowment with a vibrant and energetic youth population and turn them into concrete economic benefits for the country and its people.
The objective is to invest heavily in the training of Nigerian youths aged between 17 and 22 years to acquire both theoretical and practical skills and hands-on knowledge in internationally recognized maritime institutions around the world for the purpose of having a rich pool of operational and officer cadre seafarers, with attendant economic benefits to the country.
The maritime sector is currently faced with the handicap of not having institutions that are accredited to offer training up to degree level in nautical education and practical undertaking of seaborne competencies. The Nigerian Maritime Academy (MAN) at Oron has over the years recorded giant strides in training the level of manpower it was set up to train. But the sad reality today is that the country cannot provide Certificate of Competence (CoC) without limitations, which, consequently, restrict the career prospects of Nigerian cadets when presented before shipping companies. NIMASA will continue to provide its statutory support to MAN to ensure it breaks the jinx in the next 12 to 24 months. Only by so doing, through attainment of proper accreditation, can there be strict compliance with the requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions and laws to produce qualified and experienced seafarers, dockworkers and maritime manpower.
On Friday, October 29, 2021, another batch of 200 youths (NSDP THERRA) was sent off on training to become seafarers. It is a continuation of the performance of NIMASAs role in capacity development, to make up for the shortfall in indigenous training in order to meet the mandate and provision of the Cabotage law that demands Nigerian labour on-board vessels that operate in the country’s coastal environment.
The NSDP is NIMASAs method of fulfilling Nigeria’s international obligations as signatory to IMO and International Labour Organisation conventions, by adopting the success models that have been tried and tested in the Philippines and Singapore. The Philippines is reputed to be the maritime manning capital of the world, considering that over 25 per cent of seamen, sailors and seafarers in global shipping are Filipinos. Nigeria must strive to be the maritime manning capital of Africa.
It is estimated that around 280,000 students graduate annually from maritime institutions around the world. It should be our desire and goal to make products of NSDP part of this annual global figure, in order for Nigeria to be competitive in crewing and manning. The country stands to reap enormous benefits in many areas from being globally competitive in these areas.
Firstly, the growing army of unemployed and restive youths would be professionally trained and groomed to provide the much-needed capacity for the maritime industry. This would help in reducing the rate of unemployment in the country, because of the availability of viable and sustained employment prospects for qualified and globally qualified seafarers. Secondly, the country’s maritime industry would have a rich and diverse pool of well-trained and globally qualified seamen equipped to participate in both coastal and international shipping business. Thirdly, there’s a bright prospect of having an alternative source of income for the federal government through earning of foreign exchange from repatriated funds by seafarers who would earn salary in hard currency. It must be recognized that seafarers have the potential to impact significantly on the country’s economy.
The latest batch of youths for the NSDP is being trained as part of efforts to reposition the country for the Blue Economy that is being championed by NIMASA, which is aimed at diversifying the national economy. In order to make this a reality, the training the students will receive would be slightly different from what obtained in the past.
Sea-time training will be part and parcel of the programme in order that there would be no waiting time. The students will learn for a period to be determined by the institutions, and embark on voyages ranging from three to six months before going back to school. This is unlike the previous arrangement in which cadets completed shore-based training and waited for allotment and call-up to board vessels. It is part of efforts to equip them to be able to contribute their quota to the growth of the maritime sector in particular and the country’s economy in general.
In order to prepare for the opportunities that are expected to come from this programme, NIMASA will make efforts to sign bilateral agreements of mutual recognition of CoCs. The aim is to provide opportunities for Nigerians to work outside the country. The agency is working with industry experts to ensure that Nigeria’s Maritime Education Training (MET) meets international standards.
• Dr. Jamoh, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, writes exclusively for The Guardian